Quebecers in red and orange zones must now wear masks outdoors during any activity involving even just one person from a different household unless they are seated two metres apart.
As Quebec continues to grapple with increased COVID-19 case numbers and the spread of more transmissible variants, the Health Ministry has updated outdoor mask-wearing guidelines.
Quebecers in red and orange zones must now wear masks during any outdoor activity involving even just one person from a different household.
“I understand that the measures change a lot, but the situation changes a lot too,” Premier François Legault said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference.
The initial rule was implemented last Thursday, but only applied when more than two people from different households were participating in an activity outdoors.
The Institut national de santé publique du Québec said last week that unlike other places in Canada, Quebec has not yet documented an increase in outdoor transmission, and that outdoor mask-wearing was being implemented as a preventive measure.
“Even if the risk of transmission outside is reduced, it is not non-existent,” the Health Ministry said on Tuesday. “This is all the more important with the high circulation of variants that are more contagious.”
The ministry specified that masks can be taken off in situations where people are seated two metres apart or if they’re participating in water sports.
“What public health tells us, if you are having a picnic, maximum eight (people), once you are seated two metres from each other, you do not need to wear a mask,” Legault said.
Quebec public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda said it’s unnatural for people to maintain two metres of distance, which is why removing the mask is only allowed when seated.
He also acknowledged there is some incoherence to the new rules, like asking a couple who live separately to wear masks while they are together outdoors when they don’t have to wear them indoors.
“Our main objective is not to annoy people, it’s to protect them right now,” Arruda said.
The Health Ministry said public health is concerned about people who have been gathering and forgetting “basic instructions” like the two-metre distancing rule, which applies at all times for people who don’t live together.
“With the arrival of warmer temperatures, many people are going outdoors,” the ministry said. “That’s very good news — being physically active and getting outside is good for your physical and mental health.”
In Montreal, police have been asked to pay special attention to parks that attract crowds, with the goal of “educating” people about public health guidelines as the weather warms up.
“Parks are the backyards of Montrealers and it is normal that they want to take advantage of them,” said Geneviève Jutras, a spokesperson for Mayor Valérie Plante’s office. “We invite all citizens to visit their local parks and nature parks, not just Mount Royal, for example.”
Police handed out 1,005 tickets related to public health guidelines over the past week, 538 of which were related to the curfew, though the force couldn’t say how many of them were given in parks.
“During the last weekend in particular, the SPVM was present on the ground and special attention was paid to highly frequented areas,” the force said on Tuesday. “In connection with the beautiful weather, the mandate of the officers was in particular to educate users of public spaces, including Jeanne-Mance, Mont-Royal, La Fontaine, Laurier and Old Montreal parks.”
The Health Ministry also reminded Quebecers on Tuesday that gatherings on private property, including balconies, terrasses and backyards, are still prohibited everywhere other than yellow zones.